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Good Writers Should Be Paid Decently on Medium (and Manage to Make a Living From It)

  • 5 min read

That’s a good thing, not a bad thing, and the algorithm should make that possible.

For my “Medium Week” on Substack, I interviewed Michelle Teheux who managed to earn $1,300 in one single month writing on Medium. She can’t make a living from it but it makes a difference.

Why does every dollar on Medium make a difference, you ask?

Michelle lives a pretty simple lifestyle.

She drives old cars. She lives in an old house. She doesn’t have a dishwasher or a dryer. She knows she could earn more money by getting a job at Target or McDonald’s.

“(…) maybe I’ll have to do that someday. For now, I am making just enough to manage — my husband has a full-time job with benefits, so that helps, but he is not a high earner, either.”

Michelle from Illinois isn’t alone

40% of Americans have a side hustle — to pay off debts faster, diversify their income, or protect their finances.

Repeatedly, Tony Stubblebine and his team said that Medium isn’t a place anymore to earn a full-time income.

In my engaging article “Why Medium Does Not Pay You What You’re Worth”, I shared an interview with Medium’s CEO in which he stated:

“I don’t want to be the one to tell you what you’re worth. (…)

We’re distributing money from the subscription for the benefit of the reader. (…)

We have an audience for you that sustains you or not.”

If you’re frustrated about what Medium pays you now “you could go and get a job, … be a staff writer”, Stubblebine shared.

In fact, only a small percentage of 4–6% of writers earn $100

So $1,000 is huge!

When I asked Michelle how she felt about the state of Medium, the algorithm changes and new earnings calculation, especially after significant writers had left the platform, this is what Michelle shared with me:

I think Medium has made some mistakes. This is a platform devoted to writing, and I think they should take note that a lot of very good writers have either left entirely or are edging away, and that is not a good thing.

Shannon Ashley is the writer who made me want to come to Medium. I had three free stories per month, and I’d use them up immediately after reading her work. As soon as I finally joined the platform, I discovered Jessica Wildfire, and I began reading everything she posted.

Now, Medium has thousands of writers, and it will survive just fine without any one of them. But I know I am not the only person who really misses reading the work of those two writers. I understand that there are other countries in Medium-Land that I never visit — places where people write about coding and crypto and tech and probably some pop culture stuff, etc.

I don’t know how those other “countries” compare to the memoirs, politics, and personal stories I like to read. Maybe Medium doesn’t value the same kinds of stories I do? I don’t know, but the one thing I feel confident about as AI grows is that memoir writing by people like Debra G. Harman, MEd. cannot be written by AI. I mean, AI could fake it — but I want the real thing.

Deb writes about walking the Camino de Santiago and I know I can ask her questions about it and she will answer them! It’s a human connection with a human writer, and I think Medium should lean into that hard.

And another thing: I think there SHOULD be some writers on Medium who manage to make a living from it.

That’s a good thing, not a bad thing, and the algorithm should make that possible. Good writers should be paid decently. And the rest of us benefit from aspiring to do as well as people like Shannon Ashley used to. She bared her soul to all of us, and few people do that. It’s valuable. I’ve never met her, but I get her because she was brutally honest with us about her life — warts and all. Man, is that rare! Some people will talk openly about their sex life, but they won’t be honest about some things she has been honest about.

Also? Writers know writers! I have personally brought quite a few writers to the platform because I was so thrilled to find Medium and I wanted other good writers to experience Medium. I really do love this platform even though I’m frustrated with its algorithm changes. One journalist friend in particular I recruited and trained is doing very well here. I can’t for the life of me imagine why Medium discontinued its referral program. I will miss that money when it’s gone. And without it, I will no longer go to the trouble of encouraging writers to join and then spending time teaching them the ropes. It was worth it to me before.

Bottom Line

Medium needs to start making it clear it values its writers!

There is no Medium without writers. The message needs to be very clear: We respect and value writers, we want high-quality writing here, and we will support it. This is not Facebook. This is not Twitter. It may not be The Paris Review, either, but it should sure as hell be more Paris Review and less Facebook.

Thoughts? Let’s discuss them in the comments. Michelle and I are happy to interact with you.

Want to continue reading (& watching), read our interview on Substack:

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